The California Department of Justice on Nov. 3 released the results of an investigation into an officer-involved shooting in Hollywood in July 2021 in which a 48-year-old man believed to have been a transient was killed.
“After a thorough investigation and complete review of the evidence, the California Department of Justice has determined that there is insufficient evidence to support criminal charges,” read a statement from the California Attorney General’s Office.
The shooting occurred around 11:50 a.m. on July 15, 2021. Officers from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollywood Division responded after receiving multiple 911 calls about a man with a gun walking along Hollywood Boulevard. They located the suspect, later identified as Matthew James Sova, and followed him a short distance to the southeast corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue.
Footage of the shooting was captured by the officers’ body cameras. The officers believed he was holding a gun and shouted for him to drop it. Sova was shot after he pointed what turned out to be a butane lighter shaped like a small handgun at the officers, according to the report. California Department of Justice investigators also interviewed multiple witnesses and determined Sova had earlier brandished the fake gun at a security guard at a Scientology building on Hollywood Boulevard, and was armed with a knife that he brandished at the security guard and pedestrians on the sidewalk.
The shooting was investigated by the California Department of Justice under Assembly Bill 1506, which became law on July 1, 2021, and requires the department to investigate all officer-involved shootings resulting in the death of an unarmed civilian. Fatal officer-involved shootings of unarmed suspects were previously investigated by the police department that employed the officer and the county district attorney’s office. The California Department of Justice is currently reviewing 24 additional officer-involved shootings that occurred statewide.
“It is essential for the people of California that we have a fair, thorough and transparent process in place. Since … the law went into effect, my office has been hard at work, launching our first investigation into the tragic shooting death of Matthew James Sova,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement. “That investigation and review is now complete, and my office has determined that there is insufficient evidence to support criminal charges. But make no mistake: there is no scenario where the loss of someone’s life to violence is something we should accept as the normal course of things. As part of our work under AB 1506, my office is also issuing specific recommendations to LAPD about steps they can and should take to help prevent these kinds of incidents from occurring in the future.”
The recommendations include ensuring officers and dispatchers are trained to address people experiencing mental health crises, and to investigate the incident involving Sova to determine whether other resources may have resulted in a different outcome. The LAPD is currently reviewing the recommendations and the California Department of Justice report as part of the department’s internal investigation into the incident.
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